Fuel Management

Buncombe County Tightens Up Police Vehicle Policy

September 04, 2009

ASHEVILLE, NC - The Buncombe County Sheriff's Department has ended a long-standing policy of allowing deputies in county-owned cruisers to drop their children off at local schools while on their way to work, according to Mountain Xpress.

The department's previous policy of allowing school drop-offs increased the county's insurance liability and violated a state law banning non-government employees from using publicly owned vehicles, an internal county audit found earlier this year. In a July memo to County Manager Wanda Greene, Sheriff Van Duncan said he was ending what had been a routine practice, reported Xpress.

The finding was just one of several that came out of an audit undertaken in November 2008 and issued in April 2009. According to Xpress, other findings included:

  • Some county departments weren't following Internal Revenue Service rules regarding the proper reporting of fringe benefits when employees are allowed to drive home county-owned vehicles.
  • The county spent $224,769 on costs associated with allowing employees to take vehicles home.
  • About $650 in taxpayer money was spent on 3,250 gallons of unnecessary high-grade fuel.

The county audit also found that the planning, emergency management services, building maintenance and solid waste departments weren't properly recording the use of take-home vehicles for tax purposes. In some cases, employees properly reported their personal use of county vehicles, but the finance department failed to correctly withhold employees' payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare and failed to pay the employer's matching contribution, according to Xpress.

Expenses related to the private use of county vehicles amounted to $157,758 for public-safety vehicles and $67,011 for other county cars and trucks in the 12 months that ended November 2008. The audit recommended recouping the expenses incurred from the private use of county vehicles through a payroll deduction of $681 a year ($3 a day for 227 days), thus effectively taking away the fringe benefit. But it recommended exempting the drivers of public-safety vehicles from the deduction.

Greene told Xpress that nearly all the issues brought forth in the audit had been addressed through policy changes.

 

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